City Hall Park cyclists riding safely, city says
Cyclists will keep pedaling through City Hall Park, despite neighbors’ complaints that they are causing a disruption.
A study on the City Hall Park bike path found that it “is used in a safe and orderly way,” said Scott Gastel, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, in an e-mail to Downtown Express. “We are encouraged by the high rate of courteous interaction we are seeing between bikers and pedestrians.”
The city installed the bike path through northern City Hall Park over the summer to connect the Hudson River greenway to the Brooklyn Bridge via Warren St. The city saw the City Hall Park path as a safer alternative to Chambers St., which is often congested with bus and truck traffic. But local residents said the park was too narrow to handle a regular flow of bike commuters, who would disrupt the park’s calm.
In response to these concerns, the D.O.T. observed the bike path for four hours a week between July 21 and Aug. 20. Over that time, they saw six “aggressive” cyclists and one cyclist hit a pedestrian, but these cases represented a small fraction of the 767 total cyclists counted.
Paul Hovitz, a Community Board 1 member, was not satisfied with the D.O.T.’s study. He thinks the D.O.T. should have consulted the park’s users on how they feel about cyclists whizzing through the quiet park.
“People should dismount,” Hovitz said, echoing the call of the Friends of City Hall Park. “It’s not that long of a distance to walk your bike through. I think the city is remiss in resisting.”
Skip Blumberg, founder of the Friends, said park-goers should not have to worry about their children or dogs being hit by cyclists.
“Especially these days, we’re stressed out living in New York,” Blumberg said. “We need a place to feel calm.”
The reason the D.O.T. observed so few incidents, Blumberg said, is because cyclists are still using Chambers St. instead.
In the D.O.T. study, the city noted many cyclists using the path in the wrong direction — pedaling away from the Brooklyn Bridge, not toward it — and partway through the study they installed large red “Wrong Way” signs in the park. Before the signs went up, 14.5 percent of cyclists biked the wrong way, while afterward the number dropped to 10.3 percent. An average of 9 percent of cyclists go the wrong way on the city’s on-street bike lanes, the D.O.T. said.
In its report to C.B. 1’s Seaport/Civic Center Committee last week, the D.O.T. made several recommendations for the future: a larger “Yield to Pedestrians” sign at the Broadway entrance to the park; additional directional markers embedded in the path; cyclist education; and enforcement of wrong-way cycling.
— Julie Shapiro